6 Facts About Neptune
The farthest and last official planet of our Solar System, this cold ice giant lies more than 4 billion kilometers (almost 3 billion miles!) away from the Sun. Named after the Roman god of sea, we’re talking about Neptune!
"Neptune controls Pluto's orbit. Neptune is the bully of that neighborhood."
- Mike Brown
Neptune and Uranus are similar to each other in many ways;
- both planets are classified as “ice giants” which means they’re at least 80 percent ice (the rest is a small rocky core)
- both planets are four times wider than planet Earth
- both consist mainly of ice material like water, methane and ammonia.
- And finally, both planets have a marvellous blue colour caused by that methane in the atmosphere. But, Neptune’s blue is stronger and much more distinctive - which may be evidence of another material causing the stronger colour that we haven’t figured out yet.
Invisible to the naked eye
Neptune is the only planet in the Solar System that you can’t see with your naked eye – you’ll need a telescope to observe it. But hey, it is after all at least 4.3 billion kilometers (2.7 billion miles) away from Earth, and can get up to being as far as 4.7 billion kilometers (2.9 billion miles).
Due to the inability to observe Neptune using one’s eyes, it was discovered using mathematical calculations back in 1846, making it the first planet to be discovered in such a method and not using direct observation.
Jupiter is pretty windy too, but Neptune wins. The winds on Neptune can be so violent - as much as 3 times stronger than the winds on Jupiter with speeds reaching 2,000kmph (1,200mph)!
Further than Pluto?
Pluto is further away right? Well, yes and no: sometimes Neptune gets farther out than Pluto! Dwarf planet Pluto has an elliptical oval-shaped orbit around the Sun and as a result, Pluto gets inside the orbit of Neptune for a period of 20 years in every 248, making the dwarf planet sometimes closer to the Sun than Neptune.
A tilted planet
All the planets rotate around themselves, but not all of them rotate around a vertical axis. Earth has a rotational axis that is 23.5 degree tilted to the vertical, and Neptune is similar with a 28 degree tilt from the vertical. What’s interesting is that this results in seasons that last as long as 40 years!
And, like Uranus, Neptune’s magnetosphere is also tilted from the planet’s rotational axis by 47 degrees.
Neptune isn't often drawn with rings, but actually, all the outer gaseous planets have them. The ring system around Neptune is quite young, but what makes the planet really special, is how it’s the only planet in the Solar System with half rings. Weird.
Scientists believe that these half rings were formed in this manner not only because of Neptune’s influence, but also because of the gravitational pull of the moon “Galatea”; Neptune’s fourth innermost moon.
Neptune also has 5 full rings closer to the planet.
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST
Enter your email and receive 10% off your first order.